Syrian militant group vows allegiance to al-Qaida

BARBARA SURK
FILE - In this Friday, Jan. 11, 2013 file citizen journalism image provided by Edlib News Network, ENN, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows rebels from al-Qaida affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra, as they sit on a truck full of ammunition, at Taftanaz air base,  that was captured by the rebels, in Idlib province, northern Syria.  Al-Qaida's branch in Iraq said it has merged with Syria's extremist Jabhat al-Nusra, a move that shows the rising confidence of radicals within the Syrian rebel movement and is likely to trigger renewed fears among its international backers. Arabic on the flag, right, reads, "There is no God only God and Mohamad his prophet, Jabhat al-Nusra." (AP Photo/Edlib News Network ENN, File)
FILE - In this Friday, Jan. 11, 2013 file citizen journalism image provided by Edlib News Network, ENN, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows rebels from al-Qaida affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra, as they sit on a truck full of ammunition, at Taftanaz air base, that was captured by the rebels, in Idlib province, northern Syria. Al-Qaida's branch in Iraq said it has merged with Syria's extremist Jabhat al-Nusra, a move that shows the rising confidence of radicals within the Syrian rebel movement and is likely to trigger renewed fears among its international backers. Arabic on the flag, right, reads, "There is no God only God and Mohamad his prophet, Jabhat al-Nusra." (AP Photo/Edlib News Network ENN, File)

BEIRUT (AP) — The leader of a militant group fighting on the side of Syria's rebels has for the first time pledged allegiance to al-Qaida and the terror network's No. 1, Ayman al-Zawahri.

In an audio message Wednesday, Abu Mohammad al-Golani also confirms ties with al-Qaida's Iraq branch but says that he wasn't consulted ahead of an announcement on the two groups' merger.

Al-Qaida's branch in Iraq on Tuesday announced it joined forces with the Syrian group, and that the new union will be called the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.

But al-Golani says the announcement was premature and that his Jabhat al-Nusra will continue to use its own name.

His message was first reported by the SITE monitoring service for militant groups.

It's unclear if al-Golani is denying the merger.